Santa Bianca

Italian roots take hold in Central Coast wine country

When you're craving a crisp Italian white wine, you don't have to go far. You'll find top-notch Pinot Grigio and more refreshing options from Palmina Wines in Santa Barbara County.

Winemaker Steve Clifton, known for the stellar Burgundy-style wines he makes under the Brewer-Clifton label, is producing some of California's best Italian-style wines with this passion project.

The climate and soil types in the area are similar to those in Piedmont and Friuli, which is why grapes like Arneis, Moscato and Malvasia–white varietals you don't often see outside of Italy–do well here.

Like their European counterparts, these wines are meant for mealtime. The 2008 Tocai Friulano, a medium-bodied wine with soft floral notes and zesty fruit flavors, is served by the glass at Father's Office in Culver City. It's a natural match for prosciutto, grilled shrimp or shellfish.

Sip the picnic-friendly Pinot Grigio alongside deviled eggs, pasta salads and creamy cheeses. Take the Botasea Rosato, a pretty pink rosé made with Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Barbera grapes, to barbecues.

The 2009 white vintages are just now hitting the local retail shelves; Wally's Wine and Spirits and K&L Wines already have the Pinot Grigio. The Tocai Friulano and the Rosato will be out within the next few weeks, and the Malvasia and the Arneis will be released later this summer.